On Writing Well

On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

by William Zinsser (1922-2015)

William Zinsser taught nonfiction writing at Yale and he was editor of Book-of-the-Month Club. In a nutshell, the message is that good writing is clear, simple, and unpretentious. My father gave me a copy of the third edition of this book when I graduated from high school in the 1980s. While recently rereading it I was amused by Zinsser’s description of a new invention called a word processor—almost like someone describing their car as a horseless carriage. But otherwise the book stands up to the test of time (and there’s a newer edition available).

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Federal Plain Language Guidelines

Federal Plain Language Guidelines

Although oriented towards helping U.S. government employees write clear regulations, the Federal Plain Language Guidelines offers great advice for any nonfiction writer. It includes a section on writing content for web sites.

Here are some highlights.

Address one person, not a group. Remember that even though your document may affect a thousand or a million people, you are speaking to the one person who is reading it. When your writing reflects this… [it] has a greater impact.”

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